10 Ways to Green Your Holidays
By Rebecca Crebbin-Coates, Intern 

1. Oh Recycled Tree! You already recycle bottles, cans, and plastic…but did you know that holiday trees can be recycled?  Most of the 35 million trees purchased in the U.S. end up in landfills after the holiday season.  Visit earth911 to find a tree recycling program near you!  Recycled trees have been used around the country as everything from compost to nesting structures for birds.  You can also decorate a live, potted tree instead of a cut tree, and plant it outside.

2. Bring nature to you!
Skip the plastic and tinsel and decorate with nature instead. String garlands of popcorn or cranberries or ask your local nursery for discarded tree branches to make your own pine-fresh swags. Decorate an outdoor plant for the birds with ornaments made from fruit and birdseed.  At the end of the season, you can compost or mulch any festive décor that hasn’t been consumed.

3. Use imaginative packaging. Showcase your creativity by decorating wrapping paper made from recycled bags or newsprint, or wrap presents in old sheet music, maps, or fabric scraps.  Best of all, try using gift bags that can be reused over and over!  You can cut festive pictures from old holiday greeting cards to use as gift tags.

4. Give shared experiences instead of gifts. Sign your loved ones up for cooking classes, horseback riding lessons, or a museum membership.  Grab a friend and go wine tasting, take an art class, or experiment with new recipes in your kitchen.  Take a hike with a family member to rediscover nature together.  These presents have a low impact on the environment, require no wrapping at all, and will be remembered for years to come!

5. Go digital. Send e-cards and newsletters to friends and family on your holiday list instead of the standard paper versions.  Looking for something more personal?  Instead of mailing short greetings or invitations, make a few holiday phone calls to reconnect with friends and relatives while cutting down on paper waste.

6. Light the night with LEDs. They use up to 95% less energy than standard holiday light strands.  Be sure to turn off your holiday light displays during the day, when they have minimal visual impact – and set your lights on a timer so they will turn off after the neighborhood is in bed.

7. Wear fun hats and warm slippers. Keeping your feet and head warm helps your whole body stay warm, allowing you to turn your thermostat down a few degrees to save energy.  You can also turn your thermostat down during parties, since a crowded room of guests will generate extra heat.

8. Visit your local farmer’s market for your holiday recipe ingredients. Locally grown and organic foods are delicious – plus they don’t have to travel as far to get to your table, which benefits the environment.

9. Reduce food waste. Get creative with leftovers: use veggies and meat to create tasty soups that can be frozen for future consumption, and make croutons out of leftover bread and rolls.  When hosting a party, use smaller plates to encourage guests to take only what they can eat.  You can also donate excess dried and canned goods to your local food bank.

10. Give a gift that keeps on giving. Make a donation in honor of a special friend or family member in support of environmental education. Click here to make an honorary gift to the Environmental Volunteers and support science and nature learning!